You can barely move on twitter the last 24 hours for tweets about Shropcamp but what was it? It was billed as an afternoon to discuss “How can we use social media and open data to help service providers to work more effectively at a local level?” But what was it?

It wasn’t a conference

This was an unconference. There was no pre designed agenda, no keynote speakers, no wading through handouts. That said we did get goodie bags (all hail the sponsors MoreOpen, Penval, Beyond Brilliance and UKITA) and arrived to a rather splendid buffet lunch at Harper Adams. Ben Proctor, the dynamo behind the day, briefly welcomed us and then handed over to Andy Mabbett to draw out ideas from the group for workshops. Those interested in presenting – or who had something they wanted to hear about – came up to do a 30 second pitch for the idea and after some discussion the agenda was formed

Shropcamp Agenda (Pic courtesy of

It wasn’t full of geeks

It wasn’t full of public sector workers

Naively I’d presumed that the room would be brimming with programmer types, and that those who weren’t hackers or developers would be solely from the public sector but there was a wide range. Perhaps it’s because of the blurring between the lines of social media, technology and open data but there were few hard core hackers around, instead it was a blend of private and public sector, suited businesspeople and jeans and t-shirts, voluntary groups and social enterprises, parish councillors and self-admitted disruptors. There were marketers and web designers, social media experts and press officers. There was not a spreadsheet in sight, this was about new ways of working with data, using it to enhance local services, inform local decision making and supporting communities.

It wasn’t a social media techfest

Admittedly the lack of tweeting was more down to the lack of wifi access for a number of attendees, but whilst social media was discussed it wasn’t pushed to the nth degree. I saw only 2 QR codes (one on my own business card) and discussion was more around how to use these tools for communication rather than waggling the latest technology. (Edited to add that I understand I missed the techy workshop on Social Gaming and QR codes)

So what was it?

As ever it was what you made of it. There was debate, there were interesting discussions, some really interesting initiatives. It was a refreshing change to see people mixing from such different environments and in a relaxed yet energetic way (aided by the glorious sunshine). Personally I would have liked to see more debate as some of the workshops were still slightly too presentation reliant, and would have liked a few rounds of introductions somehow (not stuffy stand ups but some way of knowing who shared your particular interests)

A few of us were discussing Shropcamp at the Coalport Jelly this morning, when Nick Deane pointed the bottom line was that the afternoon was about communication. He’s right I think, when it comes down to it yesterday was about communication and facilitating information sharing. It felt like a vibrant and exciting afternoon with ideas a-plenty, I just hope that some, just some of these ideas grow as a more fertile and friendly environment would be hard to have found.